RENTON — Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll likes to say that it’s not about a how a team starts, but how it finishes.
An examination of Seattle’s most recent divisional playoff games on the road suggests that’s not always the case.
As the Seahawks prepare for their divisional playoff game against the Atlanta Falcons on Saturday at the Georgia Dome, they do so knowing slow starts did them in the last three times they hit the road in the divisional round.
“Coach Carroll, he actually addressed that earlier in the week,” linebacker K.J. Wright said. “He said we have to get off to a better start because we don’t want to get behind these guys because it can get ugly. So we have to start fast and of course finish strong. But I can’t say why we started slow. We definitely don’t want that to happen.”
The Seahawks have played three divisional playoff games on the road since Carroll became Seattle’s coach in 2010, and on all three occasions it was a slow start that sabotaged the Seahawks. In the 2010 playoffs the Seahawks trailed Chicago 21-0 at halftime and ended up losing 35-24. In the 2012 playoffs Seattle trailed Atlanta 20-0 at halftime, rallied to take the lead with 34 seconds remaining, but lost 30-28 on a field goal with 8 seconds remaining. Then last year the Seahawks fell behind 31-0 at halftime against Carolina before storming back to lose 31-24.
In those three games Seattle was outscored 72-0 in the first half. Seattle finished exceptionally well in each of those three games, but by the time the Seahawks got going it was too late.
Therefore, the slow start is a trap Seattle is determined to avoid this time around in a road divisional playoff contest.
“You don’t want to get too far back, that’s tough to do,” quarterback Russell Wilson said. “But I think for us it’s just stepping up to the challenge. We enjoy going on the road, I think we do a great job of it in the sense of how we do it and how we feel on the road. We don’t feel, ‘Aw man, this is going to be a drag’. We get excited to play on the road. It’s going to be a tough venue, and we’re playing a great football team, it’s the playoffs.”
Ditching the brace
Wilson played last Saturday’s 26-6 victory over the Detroit Lions in the wild-card round without a brace on his left knee. It was the first time Wilson played without the brace since suffering a sprained medial collateral ligament in his knee in Week 3’s 37-18 victory over the San Francisco 49ers.
“It felt great,” Wilson said. “I’ve been practicing the past five or six weeks without it and my legs have been feeling really good. Just wanted to be smart, get to the playoffs and have a chance to hopefully try and win it all. My legs felt great, my legs feel good right now, I feel fast.
“It was a pretty light brace, but at the same time you can’t get your full range of motion, so it kind of impedes your stride a little bit,” Wilson added. “But it’s nice to have it off.”
Being Seattle’s defensive coordinator under Pete Carroll has been a springboard to a head-coaching job, with Gus Bradley hired by Jacksonville prior to the 2013 season and Dan Quinn hired by Atlanta prior to the 2015 season. Now current defensive coordinator Kris Richard is up next, and he had his first interview for a head-coach position earlier this week when he sat down with Buffalo, who eventually chose Carolina defensive coordinator Sean McDermott on Wednesday.
So what did Richard learn from the experience?
“That I’m ready,” the 37-year old replied.
“One of the best things that Coach Carroll has done for us as a staff is that he’s challenged us to personally come up with a philosophy, create an identity so if you are ever presented with an opportunity that you know what you want to do, you know who you are,” Richard added. “You have to search and recognize and figure out who you are, what you want your football team to be and how would you do that. He’s challenged us with that each and every single year since 2010, so I’ve been preparing for a while.”
It appears the Seahawks and Falcons will be mostly healthy for their match-up. For Seattle, both running back C.J. Prosise (shoulder) and defensive tackle Tony McDaniel (concussion) practiced in a limited fashion Wednesday, meaning there’s a chance they could play Saturday.
Meanwhile for Atlanta, which is coming off a bye, all 53 players on the current roster practiced in full Wednesday.
For more on the Seattle sports scene, check out Nick Patterson’s Seattle Sidelines blog at www.heraldnet.com/tag/seattle-sidelines, or follow him on Twitter at @NickHPatterson.